Jesus had no problem talking for some time, from passage to passage, starting in Genesis, about Himself. In these passages He illustrated that ALL of the Scripture was about Him. If Jesus believed that was true, and if He in fact expressed that it is so, then we are under compulsion to read the Bible in that light. The Scriptures, beginning in Genesis, are Christotelic—intentionally aimed at revealing Christ!
When the forlorn disciples met up with Jesus following His resurrection, it made the short trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus much more pleasant. Before revealing who He was and that indeed the Christ was alive from the dead, Jesus talked with them as a fellow pilgrim in life—but one who had extensive knowledge about the Scriptures. We find this story in Luke 24.
He rebukes them, but more as a human like them who is confounded that these men do not see the truth about the death of Christ three days earlier. He is rebuking them for not reading the Scriptures with understanding, and for being men with weak faith: “Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
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By David de Bruyn — 12 months ago
To be counted as truth, facts should be tentative when new information is forthcoming. He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13). A lot of information is coming out. Don’t tout as final what may be contradicted tomorrow. Medical findings and statistics, particularly, should be held only with the kind of certainty that belongs to very early data.
It is crucial for Christians to understand that underlying what seem like objective facts, there are some competing worldviews. Covid-19 has particularly revealed these competing worldviews. Let me sketch two opposing ones for you in broad detail.
One worldview is agnostic about whether there is a God, and so does not consider His hand in Covid’s existence, its prevention or its cure. It does not believe in Christ, nor in salvation, nor in the afterlife. Therefore, it believes that biological life must be preserved at all costs. For that reason, it is willing to give up, suspend, or prohibit the human aspects of life: worship, social interaction, eating together, and so forth. Put simply, its counsel is: wear a mask, stay home, don’t touch anyone, and wait till this crisis is over. On top of that, it believes that it can control this virus if everyone submits to a central authority. If everyone listens and does what they’re told, we can have the world we want. Driving this is a false view of man and sin. We can all have a utopian post-Covid world if we all toe the line. We must trust the interpretations of medical experts and politicians, because they will get us back to a normal society. This is not very far from the ideas of the utopian leftists. They believe we can have a utopia on earth if everyone submits to a centralised power who will tell everyone what to do.
The second worldview believes there is a God, believes He is in control of this disease and has allowed it. It believes in Christ we are safe from Hell and can live life joyfully in the face of death. It believes life is always worth preserving, but not at all costs. Specifically, it believes worship and gathering is required, so is human friendship, relationship, and interaction. It believes that self-protectiveness can cross the line into sinfulness. It believes the human freedoms of movement, assembling and dignity of person can only be suspended for very temporary periods, when the threat to life is severe, such as in wartime, or an extremely deadly pandemic. It believes that the human heart is sinful, and that it is not unlikely that evil people can exploit a crisis for purposes other than the improvement of the health of the population. It also keeps a special eye on what can become tyrannical abuses of power.
What is important to understand is that both worldviews will hear the same facts, but will very likely arrive at different interpretations, and different responses. That is also what creates animosity between people who are hearing the same ‘facts’. People with different worldviews assume that different responses to Covid are the wrong responses.
What then does it mean to live by truth, and not by unfiltered facts? Make sure you have a Christian worldview to filter the facts and the recommendations of medical experts. Do you believe that God is the Lord of life? Do you believe that death has lost its sting, that to live is Christ, and to die is gain? Do you believe that the body is to be protected, but not at all costs? Do you believe that sickness and health are in God’s hands? Do you believe God calls us to face risks for His name?
By Forrest L. Marion — 1 year ago
Written by Forrest L. Marion |
Friday, November 26, 2021
Keep in mind that by this time the Jerusalem church probably numbered between fourteen and eighteen thousand. As the church grew, new men were needed to continue doing what the elders had been handling, that is, if the elders were to continue to focus on the Word and prayer. The deacons took up three duties that formerly had been done by the elders: the administration of the church, the resources of the church, and the mercy ministry of the church. The reason deacons are to be ordained is because they perform roles the elders formerly did. One very practical tip Reeder gave to elders and sessions was this: try not to redo the work of the diaconate.
On a beautiful, crisp Saturday in October, Southeast Alabama Presbytery (SEAL) deacons held a half-day conference focused on deacons and their biblical role in the church. Hosted at Eastwood PCA in Montgomery – strategically, on a “bye” week for Auburn football – about 40 men attended, mostly deacons from several Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) churches plus several teaching elders (TE) and ruling elders (RE). The conference organizer, Montgomery attorney and Eastwood deacon Samuel McLure opened the event by remarking that, as far as anyone knew, this was the first-ever SEAL presbytery gathering to focus on deacons and their role.
Mr. McLure provided handouts of an 1859 article in The Southern Presbyterian Review by the Rev. James B. Ramsay that addressed “The Deaconship.” One of Ramsay’s excellent thoughts was, “A man cannot be a Christian without seeking to assist, comfort and elevate, all that are Christ’s, to the extent of their wants and his ability.” The Apostle Paul gave considerable attention to the taking up of collections and their proper distribution to the poor of the churches he ministered to, Ramsay pointed out. The Virginia pastor argued that the deacon “as a distinct officer” is to have charge of that important, “distinct function of the church.”
Following the welcome and introduction, TE Jere Scott Bradshaw of Covenant PCA (Auburn, Ala.), preached a sermon from Acts 6-7 on the life and ministry of Stephen, one of the seven men full-of-the-Spirit and wisdom chosen to serve the Jerusalem church as a deacon, thereby enabling the elders to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word. Pastor Bradshaw had three main teaching points: the character of the deacon, the confidence of the deacon, and the incompetence of the deacon.
The writer of Acts, the apostle Luke, relates that Stephen’s character was marked by grace and power, wisdom and evidence of the Spirit, and tenacity in the message of grace in Jesus Christ. Stephen’s confidence was reflected in his message, “one of the greatest speeches in the history of the world,” as Bradshaw said. Stephen emphasized to his audience that God was not confined to Israel. But the problem his audience faced was not one of the distribution of bread or of church resources; rather, it was the defilement of sin. His audience needed a new creation, a new birth, a new LORD, a new witness. Stephen courageously pointed them toward Jesus Christ, the one who fulfills all that the scriptures had led God’s covenant people to anticipate. Yet Stephen was unable to bring about their change of heart. Pastor Bradshaw observed that, like the elder, the deacon is utterly incapable of bringing about change in another’s heart; only the True Deacon, Jesus Christ, is competent to change the heart. Connecting with the biblical account of Stephen’s death, Bradshaw reminded the men that it was this True Deacon who changed the murderous Saul into the Apostle Paul.
Pastor Bradshaw continued, “Dear brother, you will be utterly incompetent in your service as a deacon.” Your service often will go unnoticed; it will receive unmerited criticism; it will be ineffective in bringing about lasting change in people. “And, beloved, this is the joy of being an officer in the church” (both elder and deacon). Because we, as mere men, are unable to produce transformation – neither in ourselves nor others – we must look to Jesus Christ. Deacons must live for the approval of only one voice . . . the Glorious God, who says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . .” Jere Scott Bradshaw closed with these words to deacons: “May you rest and work in the power of the Holy Spirit as you manifest the gospel of grace in acts of mercy.” “Then,” added Bradshaw, “you will truly be serving ‘with much advantage.’”
Bradshaw’s closing remarks played into the title and theme of the conference, taken from the PCA’s Book of Church Order, section 9-6: “The deacons may, with much advantage, hold conference from time to time for the discussion of the interests committed to them” (emphasis added).
Following the sermon, the group watched a recorded interview that Sam McLure had conducted with Pastor Harry Reeder of Briarwood PCA (Birmingham, Ala.), specifically for this conference. Pastor Reeder encouraged the men to be concerned with “church health” rather than “church growth.” Normally, a healthy church will also grow numerically. In some churches, however, he noted, the pastor is doing the work of the elders, the elders are doing the work of the deacons, and the deacons are “just doing some work.” Focusing on Acts 6, he suggested the partiality of the elders toward the Hebrew widows at the expense of Gentile widows was “functional but not spiritual” partiality, or prejudice. The earliest elders at Jerusalem were ethnic Jews and so, by virtue of prior relationships and traditional networking in today’s parlance, they easily were aware of the needs of the Jewish widows in their midst to a degree that could not be duplicated among the Gentiles. Keep in mind that by this time the Jerusalem church probably numbered between fourteen and eighteen thousand. As the church grew, new men were needed to continue doing what the elders had been handling, that is, if the elders were to continue to focus on the Word and prayer. The deacons took up three duties that formerly had been done by the elders: the administration of the church, the resources of the church, and the mercy ministry of the church. The reason deacons are to be ordained is because they perform roles the elders formerly did. One very practical tip Reeder gave to elders and sessions was this: try not to redo the work of the diaconate. Enough said.
Following Harry Reeder’s talk and a short break, Eastwood’s diaconate chairman, Brian DeHuff, spoke on the duties of the deacon. “The work of a deacon is sacrificial,” he observed, and if they don’t do their job then the elders will have to pick up the slack. In the imagery with which Alabamians so easily relate, the deacons are “the offensive line for elders” in the church. Deacon DeHuff went on to discuss several duties of deacons today, including collecting and distributing the resources of the church, promoting the members’ giving and stewardship, the care of widows and orphans, maintaining the buildings and grounds as well as the church’s financial and budget records, and preparing the sanctuary for worship. He encouraged deacons to look for opportunities to secure other men in the church with gifts or qualifications in certain areas to assist in ministry. Men with carpentry or other home skills might assist in repairs for a widow. A CPA might help with financial counseling of a member in debt, and so on. An insightful observation he gave the men was this: God looks at giving in terms of how much we keep back. The poor widow in the gospels who kept nothing back was the one who gave the most from Christ’s perspective. “Our wealth is meant to be shared with those who have need,” DeHuff said, and, “One of the cures for greed is generosity.” The best deacons are “do-ers” and “pray-ers.”
Following Brian DeHuff’s talk, the men enjoyed a lunch and fellowship time before wrapping up, and were done by one-thirty in the afternoon. The 5-hour conference was instructive, encouraging, insightful, practical, and cheerful. We recommend other churches and presbyteries consider doing a deacons’ conference of their own. To that end, we note the conference website, WithMuchAdvantage.com, created to encourage deacons to zealously and faithfully own their domain.
Forrest Marion is a ruling elder in Eastwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Montgomery, Ala.
 James B. Ramsay, “The Deaconship,” The Southern Presbyterian Review, vol. 12, no. 1 (Apr. 1859): 1-24.
By Matthew Miller — 1 year ago
In recent years, the church has come to speak of this second kind of idols as “idols of the heart.” Is God the object of our hearts’ deepest affections and longings, or is something else captivating us? That “something else” need not be evil in itself. When Jesus says we must choose whether we will serve God or money, it is not because money is bad in itself; rather, as Paul says, it is “the love of money” that is the root of all kinds of evil (Matt. 6:21–24; 1 Tim. 6:10, emphasis added). Accordingly, our fallen hearts can take all kinds of good things—money, achievement, romance, patriotism, family, even a noble cause—and turn them into dangerous idols that lead us away from a pure devotion to the Lord and into spiritual adultery (with all the danger and misery that includes).
If you have an idol in your heart, you should not delay in dealing with it. But you must first know if it’s there, and that requires spiritual diagnosis. In this short piece, I want to suggest there are three symptoms that indicate the presence of an idol of the heart. If you find these three symptoms of idolatry present in your life, you need to take urgent action.
The first symptom of an idol is you continually find yourself thinking about it when you have nothing else to think about it. It operates like an obsession in the back of your mind, calling for constant attention. You think obsessively about winning the next game, or getting married, or that pressing issue at work, or the state of your portfolio, or the details of your kids’ lives, or what other people may be thinking or saying about you.
It would be entirely appropriate to give some of your attention to these things, and sometimes even significant attention to them. You would want to be prepared for tomorrow’s presentation at work, attentive to your child’s well-being, involved in the affairs of your nation, or committed to a good cause. But if you find that all of your thoughts have a way of funneling toward this central obsession, and have for some time, it signals the presence of something that has become an idol.
The second symptom of an idol is you find yourself taking unwise measures to attain it. You might date someone you know you shouldn’t date or let a relationship cross boundaries you know it shouldn’t cross.